“Last July my friend Karen completed a 5k at the Peabody Y and I got to thinking that maybe I could walk a 5k next year. In our Enhance Fitness Class I announced how impressed I was and shared that I was setting out to complete this goal.  Due to arthritis in both my knees I had a lot of pain and trouble walking any distance but I had been loosing weight, with the help of Olga Arnold in the Nutrition Reset Program, and was finally able to walk with less pain.

Melinda Naves-Madruga, the instructor of our Enhance fitness program, recommended I sign up for the Melrose Family YMCA’s Spooky Sprint 5k in October.  Melinda has been very supportive of my weight loss and fitness goals. She often gave me advice how to increase the strength in my legs. As I love a good challenge, I decided to start training for the Spooky Sprint by walking the track, around my neighborhood and on the treadmill at the Y. Three months later, during a nor’easter, 5 friends and I from the Peabody Y completed the Spooky Sprint!  I came in last, but was proud of completing my first 5k.

During the latter part of the Spooky Sprint Melinda walked alongside me and suggested I sign up for the Torigian YMCA indoor Triathlon in February.  I hadn’t even completed the 5k yet and she wanted me to sign up for a triathlon?  She said yes, “I could do it!” So, I signed up for the triathlon which included a 10 minute swim, 30 minute cycle, and 20 minutes of walking/running on a treadmill.  I then started training in all three events at the Y and on February 23 completed my first triathlon. I came in last, again, but that was ok. I enjoyed the festive atmosphere during the triathlon, everybody encouraging each other.  My mentors and coaches Melinda and Olga were both there volunteering and helped cheer me on.

Throughout the last year I’ve continued to work with Olga and lose weight. She has been very supportive of my fitness goals and encouraged me in all my athletic endeavors.  As a result of her unwavering support several of my friends at the Y decided to sign up for the 2019 YMCA Metro North Road Race Series, which consists of 4 different 5ks.  At the first race of the series, hosted by the Saugus Family YMCA in Breakheart Reservation on April 27th, I saw Olga walking the opposite direction retrieving the race signs when I was just halfway through the course. We stopped to talk and Olga asked if she could walk with me, together we walked all the way to the finish line. Needless to say, I was last again but “I did it”. I didn’t really mind being last all the time because I know I am a beginner at these races but when you are last in a race there is usually no one at the finish line. Everyone has gone home.

Prior to the second race of the series, hosted by the Lynn YMCA in Nahant on May 18th, I got an email from Olga stating the YMCA staff had offered to let me start earlier so I could experience the finish with the other participants. I jumped at the chance and again Olga offered to walk with me to keep me company! So on race day I started walking the course at 7:15 am and finished approximately two hours later.  And Wow, what a finish! The crowd of nearly 300 runners was yelling and cheering my name as I approached the finish line, it was awesome, gave me goosebumps. I had no idea how they knew my name (still don’t). I assumed they cheered like that for every finisher, except when I was sitting on a bench at the park so many people I didn’t know came by to congratulate me. The atmosphere at the finish line was so much fun, everyone giving each other high fives, awards being announced, food and water given out.  I guess that is what you miss when you are the last in the race.  Who knew!

I am looking forward to the third 5k  of the race series in July because it is at my home branch, the Torigian Family YMCA in Peabody. I don’t care if I am last again, but I hope the team at the Y will continue to allow me an early start. The participants at the end of the race work just as hard as the ones in the front and would like to enjoy the festivities as well.

I started coming to the Peabody Y on a regular basis when I retired just for something to do. Due to my knee complaints, I started just using the pool, hot tub and participating in aqua aerobics. Then I started taking other classes including Chair Yoga, Stay Fit, Spinning and Enhanced Fitness Training (not all at the same time). The story above is why I keep coming back to the Y!  I have made many friends and love my time spent there, not only exercising and getting fit, but just sitting in the lobby talking with the “gang”.  We enjoy each other’s company so much that one time we were so busy chatting we never did get around to exercising! I can’t imagine my life without the Y and I can’t believe I started at the Y just using the pool and now I am participating in 5ks!”

Olga Arnold and Barbara Casey crossing the finish line at the Lynn YMCA 5k on May 18th